HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Nearly two weeks after a HART bus driver was stabbed to death by a passenger on the job, drivers say they need more than just HD cameras and monitors, but glass enclosures to buy them time during an attack.
Drivers from all over the bay area went before the HART board to share their personal stories of assault and their memories of Dunn. They believe if glass enclosures were installed, what happened to Dunn wouldn't have been possible.
They saved a seat for Dunn at the meeting and held signs that said, "We are Thomas Dunn." In December, Dunn sat in that same group of chairs to support safety changes.
One maintenance worker told the board what happened 24 hours after police say Dunn was stabbed to death behind the wheel of his bus.
“HART introduced me to a new smell I had never smelled before… which is the smell of death," she said.
She explained the forensic detectives dressed in hazmat suits didn't know how to open the bus so maintenance workers without any protection had to go into the paint booth and open the doors.
“That’s going to affect me the rest of my life, that’s going to affect me," she said.
June 1st, HART expanded their security guard presence on the platforms at the Marion Transit Center near Downtown Tampa. There was a decision to upgrade security from level one to level five, meaning there will be armed guards with police or military experience.
Some of those guards will make random security checks on board the Metro Rapid lines.
Following feedback, there will also be on-board high-definition cameras with audio scope expanded on HART vans, buses and the TECO Line Streetcar.
The HD camera technology provides audio and real-time on-board viewing from HART control center.
“The cameras can pick up audio, even very faint audio and so we will be able to see and hear all activities that happen on our system," said Ben Limmer, HART's CEO.
HART has also made a decision made to place customer awareness monitors on board buses, similar to the ones you see at retailers such as Walmart, Target an convenience stores. Those will provide customers an on-board view of themselves.
HART is the first transit agency in Florida to use the technology on board technology.
But drivers say those safety upgrades are an after thought and will do nothing to protect a driver from getting stabbed or punched.
“We’re looking for something that will help a driver go home — not identify who did it," said a member of the ATU 1593.
Commissioner Les Miller agrees the plan isn't enough.
“The plan never talked about what type of shields they have, never talked about the buttons -- that was important to them," he said.
Shannon Blanchard and her son ride route 400 all the time and she likes the idea of cameras and monitors.
“My son rides to school every day faithfully, I ride it almost every day, I try to," she said. She also thinks they should have installed bullet-proof glass enclosures. "It should’ve been done along time ago.”
It's what bus drivers all over the bay area are now fighting for. HART says it has reached out to vendors for price quotes and to see what enclosure designs work best.
In addition to those measures currently implemented or about to be implemented, HART will be conducting a 3rd party Independent Safety Assessment of the HART system.
HART will also conduct an internal operator safety survey to reach out to our operators and gauge feedback on what they believe is the best approach to keep them safe.
In addition, HART will be hosting a statewide Safety and Security Symposium on Operator Safety later in the summer with national experts and state industry peers, including FDOT.